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Canary Islands selected as alternate site for Thirty Meter Telescope

  • NATIONAL OPTICAL ASTRONOMY OBSERVATORY OF JAPAN

    This artists rendering shows the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope at night.

The nonprofit organization that wants to build a giant telescope atop a Mauna Kea has selected an alternate site in case it can’t be built on land many Native Hawaiians consider sacred.

A mountain in the Canary Islands, Spain, is the primary alternative to Hawaii, Thirty Meter Telescope officials announced today.

The TMT International Observatory Board of Governors met last week to discuss the project’s progress in Hawaii and identified Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos on La Palma island “after careful deliberation,” board chair Henry Yang said in a statement.

Hawaii’s Mauna Kea is still the preferred location, Yang said, adding that telescope officials will forge ahead in efforts to obtain a permit to build it on conservation land.

The project is stalled in Hawaii amid intense protests by Native Hawaiians and others who cite the sacredness of the land and other issues for their opposition. The state Supreme Court last year invalidated the project’s permit, ruling that the state land board’s approval process was flawed. The ruling sent the matter back for a new contested-case hearing.

The hearings have been moving slowly since they started on Oct. 20 after various delays.

“I’m glad they’re looking at alternative sites,” Kealoha Pisciotta, one of the leaders challenging the telescope, said during a break in the hearings. “I have to say if they do go with the alternative site, I hope they don’t do there what they’re doing to Native Hawaiians and the people of Hawaii.”

Telescope officials earlier this year decided to start looking at other sites for the $1.4 billion project. They also considered high mountains in Chile, India, China and Mexico.

Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos is on the edge of the Caldera de Taburiente National Park, about 7,800 feet above sea level.

Telescope officials selected Mauna Kea over Chile’s Cerro Armazones mountain in 2009. Astronomers prefer Mauna Kea because its nearly 14,000-foot summit is well above the clouds, and it provides a clear view of the sky for 300 days a year. There’s also very little air and light pollution.

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  • Very few Hawaiians are opposed to the project because the land is “sacred.” But there may be legitimate reasons to oppose the project and they are being worked through. That said, I am all for the Canary Islands. Please do build there. I think Hawaiians and the mainland environmental squads joining them will regret the decision but hey, this is the Nei.

        • Protestors are looking for a payday. As soon as the cash stuffed envelopes are distributed the protestors will fade away.

        • Walking barefoot, up Mauna Kea, in the traditional loin cloth would give the protesters a little more credibility. The loin clothed protesters are less impressive with their 4 wheel drive trucks in the background.

        • “They do not appreciate enlightenment, science, and forward thinking.” Sounds like many other religions, especially the fundamentalist in the crowd, Christian or otherwise. And as for blowing shells and wearing loin cloths, I wasn’t aware that religions in this country could be judged by the clothes they wear during ceremonies. Seems we’re applying a double standard, one for the Scientologists, Mormons, Catholics, Baptists, and one for an indigenous religion. Frankly, I don’t believe in any of them but if you claim to support religious freedom, you don’t get to pick and choose.

  • The damage that Kealoha Pisciotta and these claimants do to Hawaiians and hawaiians now and future generations is breath-taking. Tragedy. Worse, is their hypocracy: to get up to the top of the mountain, they use a federal road. To stay at the top of the mountain, they wear white man’s clothes. To go into court like they do, they use white man’s law. No shame on top of no aloha. Kamehameha the Great decapitated fakirs like Kealoha Pisciotta… and yes his name says it all.

    • agree but they won’t have to bear the cost of their imprudent actions. The next generations of Hawaiians who will not have the excellent opportunities for science will. As nainoa has said, ancient Hawaiians were very scientific and used the stars to navigate here. I wish the few protesters and their mainland allies would let this project go, work with it and develop it so all will benefit.

  • I still have Family on the Big Island and I hope someone will take lead and make the TMT become a reality in Hawaii. It would a shame to loose the opportunity to reap the benefits of having this important scientific project built in Hawaii. It falls in line with leveraging the prestige of the UH School of Astronomy internationally, jobs in our community, important scientific research that could benefit the world. Don’t let the detractors project a backward, third-world backwards mentality.

    • Yep that’s what I been saying. Land sacred but do they help pick up the trash more than the trash they dump all over the Westside. The most populated with Hawaiians and the most trash.

    • What exactly does this have to do with the people trying to stop the telescope? Are the protestors dumping trash and contaminants on their land? Since when do the actions of your neighbor make everyone in the neighborhood guilty of the same crime?

  • Suspect the Canary Isle site selection is a straw man given that it is not very high up. Surprising the Cerro Armezones Mountain site in Chile was not selected.
    Obviously the Mauna Kea site because of its location above the clouds is the best location for the TMT but the Chile site is the next best site. Wonder why Canary Isle site was
    chosen over the Chile site.

    • It might not be high up but with very few city lights and on a cloudless day, it would provide adequate viewing capability of the TMT. Chile politics might be just as detestable as in Hawaii so that might have played in their decision.

    • If Kamehameha I was alive today and ruling Hawaii as an independent sovereign nation, immune from US laws, these weekend worshipers who go up to Mauana Kea to worship whatever gods they are praying to would be put to death. Like the western guns and weapons used by Kamehameha I to defeat other Hawaiian groups, Kamehameha would realize he and other Hawaiian’s would stand to benefit from the TMT and would welcome the telescope with open arms. Of course Kamehameha would like himself and his followers to benefit, which is what TMT and UH are currently offering Native Hawaiians so I don’t know why UH cannot gain the support of the majority of native Hawaiians to gather together and support the building of the TMT over the objection of a small group of protestors, on top of which from true Hawaiian culture and customs have ZERO CLAIM to Mauna Kea of a place of worship.

    • Exactly right. If the TMT is moved to the Canary Islands it will be a loss for all of mankind. How shameful it would be to build the most powerful telescope in history and not place it in the best location for astronomy in the world. But the greater tragedy would be that so many of us in Hawaii are willing to let our future be shaped by the ignorance of so few. It would be yet another sign that we have lost our perspective on what is important, that we are moving backwards instead of forwards, that our leaders lack vision and decisiveness and that we as the stewards of these Islands lack the willpower to do anything about it.

  • Kealoha Pisciotta, you don’t speak for me. You make us Hawaiians look like we want to remain at the bottom of the mountain in education. Prisons filled with uneducated Hawaiians because you make it like this is the life we live, a life of crime and stupidity. A BIG chance for us to get ahead in life learningg about our universe and you trash it like the Hawaiians trashing the island with their litter and cigarette butts when the land suppose to be sacred. Go jump in a volcano and make the other 98% of the Hawaiians that want TMT happy.

  • Since they have an alternate picked out they should just forget about Hawaii and build on the alternate site. Might as well go where there is no objections to this project and take the funds that they were donating the island. They already spent big bucks and nothing to show for it.

    • Then there are probably some 2 % of the Canarians who will say there are sacred plants or bugs that will be destroyed and TMT has to deal with a bunch of idiots again.

  • These protestors should instead protest the State of Hawaii – Department of Hawaiian Home Lands (DHHL) of their right to return to their lands held as a land trust for homesteading, agriculture, farm, ranch, and commercial or industrial or other activities by Native Hawaiians. DHHL are in breach of their fiduciary duty to award the designated homelands in a timely manner where many qualifying applicant Hawaiians have since passed away on a wait list for decades.

    This is an egregious act on the part of DHHL and a travesty to the validity of their function.

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